Friday 18-11-2016 - 08:30
Tomorrow, thousands of students from across the UK are set to march through the streets of Central London. Marching in hope of a free, accessible, inclusive, and international education system for generations to come.
In Wales, we have a new education sector landscape emerging. In the wake of three separate, sector-changing, reports: the Diamond Review into Higher Education Funding, the Donaldson Review into the new curriculum, and the Hazelkorn Review into the governance of the post-16 sector.
These three reports offer the Welsh Government recommendations that could bring into reality a transformative Welsh education sector – a sector, not quite as we know it. Although these are fundamentally separate reports, it is critical that they are explored with each other in mind, complementary of one another, so we can help shape the best possible future for students. A strategic view of what our Welsh education system may look like for the next generation needs to be found. A view that takes us beyond five-year elected terms of politicians. What will education look like in the post-16 sector for our members in ten years’ time?
Education is under attack like never before. Further education budgets in Wales have been slashed year upon year. Recent figures suggest cuts of around seven per cent to the entire FE budget since 2013. In particular, adult community learning and part-time study funding has been decimated. These cuts to the most flexible pathways of study are pushing out the most vulnerable students. This is not the answer.
Professor Ellen Hazelkorn’s Review lays out its recommendations; an interesting array of proposals around merging the governance of further education and higher education. If you look at our Welsh institutions today, there is no such thing as a typical Welsh college or university. We have complex mergers and partnerships that are campus-wide across the length and breadth of Wales. There are a growing number of HE courses in FE institutions, and vice versa. The lines of the sectors are blurred. Students choose to learn in a variety of emerging scenarios.
For years, the HE and FE sectors have been competitively fighting over the same pots of money in the education budget. This competition-fuelled culture has divided the education sector. For years, NUS Wales has demanded a united education system driven by students, for students. We have imagined education that students want. However, in a sector where HE and FE rarely meet this vision can’t be enshrined. Merging the governance of the two sectors aims to create a holistic approach to education pathways and putting the needs of students central to the decision-making.
We need to be open and international in how we go forward with this. Looking to our neighbours internationally and learn from each other. Globally, there is so much for our education sector to learn from and grow from.
It’s time for the education sector in Wales to come together and work effectively at ensuring students’ needs are central to its actions. Parity of funding and support for all levels and forms of study. We want to see a fairly funded education system that suits the needs of people in Wales. We want to see investment into Further Education, Adult Community Learning and Work-Based Learning. A route that is a lifeline for so many.
Join NUS Wales today for a day of action to show we are United for Education. Find out more here.